Students at this time of the year are busy making plans for their future. Some are already a part of coaching institutes to prepare for their engineering entrance exams while others are still waiting for their results. Prateek Bhargava, Founder & CEO of Mindler, decodes some of the secrets of becoming an engineer.
What are the attributes required to become an engineer?
One of the biggest mistakes that people do whenever they look at attributes required for engineering, they just limit the key skills to aptitudes and certain traits such as being good at maths or physics or getting a good score of 95%. Aptitude is just one important aspect when it comes to choosing to engineer. When we talk about abilities, numerical, mechanical, and technical capabilities come first. However, what is more, important is your style of working.
The student’s orientation should be more towards information. The person should be inclined towards research. There are also some unique personality traits that an individual should possess such as intense pursuit, ability to work in a confined environment, resilience to work on long projects etc. So, these are certain aspects that are far more important. Similarly, emotional intelligence, and passion for the subject is also important. These are some of the aspects we would look in a kid using our assessment platform even before we began talking about engineering.
What areas should a student focus on while they intend to prepare for engineering entrance exams?
Unlike any other domain such as in media or internet marketing, there are very few things in engineering on which you can work on from the very beginning. Here, it is more about continuous exploration and learning. It is a domain that requires the constant attention of an aspirant since there are developments in it every day. Let’s say if a student is learning an analogous language today or a .NET language or any other platform, it will get outdated. So, an aspirant has to continuously learn. Hence, my advice to students is that they should start early. All the students that we are assisting began coding at the age of 13 or 14. Once you are in college, use the online platform like Courseera, or Udemy to continuously learn and update yourself.
How should a student narrow down his or her specialization while choosing an engineering college?
Just giving tips on how to specialize won’t help because the bigger challenge is in the system. In India particularly, it is the function of ranks. It is not according to the student’s choice. So, a student can’t get in aerospace engineering just because he or she wishes it. Hence, you should stay away from any kind of tools or assessments when it comes to narrowing down the options for specialization. This is because of the fact that your mapping can be done to get into an engineering career but it is impossible to plan how to be a good civil or mechanical engineer. There are two ways to get into your desired specialization. One is to opt for a slightly generic field at the B.Tech level such as mechanical engineering which can have multiple applications and the other could be you can opt for adjacent disciplines when you are passionate after one single domain. Otherwise, one should stick to a generalist approach while choosing a specialization.
What do have to say about the money versus passion debate?
I don’t believe in that debate because it doesn’t make any sense. If you have the passion for a certain thing and you are doing well, there are enough examples from every field where you get money. For example, today if you are a good content writer or a blogger, you can make more money than an IIT graduate. So, there is no concept today that one career is lucrative or another is less-paying. Gone are those days when an engineering guy or a management guy comparatively used to get more salary than other professionals. It is too cross-domains these days.
Which branch of engineering do you think is lucrative?
I would strongly advise students to do engineering only when they are getting admissions in top-ranked colleges. Try to look at IITs, NITs, and top private colleges. There is a big menace in terms of upcoming engineering colleges. There are engineering institutes in almost every nook and corner of our country. A student has to stay away from that because there is no career potential associated with these colleges. The reason behind it is not that they can’t offer a degree. It is just because they don’t have a quality faculty, resources, and a scholarly student pool which can make a student industry ready. So, these are the gaps that a student should be aware of.
Which colleges do you think are best when it comes to engineering?
All the institutes of national importance such as IITs, NITs, and BITs which are the top-ranked colleges are best for engineering education. Then, there is a list of private colleges which are good. But, if you have to look at best ones then IITs, NITs, and BITs are best ones. It is because of the fact that faculty, resources, and infrastructure for studies is very good.
Do you have to say anything about the inter-disciplinary programmes?
It is good when you are clear about what you want to do because I have seen a lot of individuals getting into a B.Tech plus MBA programme based on a five years regulated model. At times, this does not justify the learning. When you look at a traditional B.Tech programme, you could anyways do a four years programme and then go for a work anywhere outside the domain and then pursue an MBA. He or she can pursue a one year MBA from a college like ISB of which I am an alumnus. You have a one-year programme in such college in which they provide easy entries to working professionals.
Any advice to students who wish to pursue research?
Research is a very upcoming field. However, one should be careful that it is not a career that would start minting money from day one. This trend is also however changing; when you join corporate firms and pharma companies and can get hefty salaries. But, research as the career requires you to be very patient and resilient. It requires you to possess in-depth knowledge of your domain. Also, students need to understand that getting into an IIT is not sufficient for research because IITs are not among top hundred colleges of the world when it comes to research. IISc should be a preferred college when it comes to research. But, the arena of research is very big and there is a need for talent in that domain whether it is genetics or biomedical research. Research is an important aspect of these domains.
Which post-graduate programme do you suggest, an MS or an M.Tech?
There is no one formula for it. It is actually what a student wants. Finance is never a constraint for a good student. One can get a good MS degree at the same price, I think the emphasis should be more on what you want to pursue. MS would take you more towards research than an M.Tech.
Any advice for aspiring engineer entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship should not be associated only with engineering. But, there is a huge scope of disruption which budding engineering will bring into the world of engineering. If you wish to become an entrepreneur, make sure you have three traits in you. Firstly, ensure that you have the appropriate degree because it is important for a founder to have a very good background in education when you begin fundraising. There is a reason for which an individual or group will invest in you. Secondly, get in a place a strong team and last but definitely not the least, gain some in-depth experience before venturing out. Be patient and execute a plan gradually.